Savvy Leadership and Collaborative Spirit Keep Realty Executives Growing Strong

Realty Executives International President, Patrick van den Bossche, facilitates a panel session on the “State of the Industry” with key broker/owners and Executives.

When a few years ago Outlier CEO David Tedesco chose Patrick van den Bossche, with his 30 years of experience managing fast-growth, next-growth and startup firms, to lead Realty Executives International as president, it appeared to be a good match. And that has proven to be precisely the case.

Founded in 1965 by Dale Rector, and now one of the largest and most established real estate systems with over 8,000 agents, the brand named after its people, its “Executives,” prides itself on being on the leading edge of the 100% commission concept. While other companies have followed suit, Realty Executives continues to thrive based on several factors.

“First of all, we have no debt, so for us, our business strategy and commitment are to the long game,” says van den Bossche, of the company headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona, and owned by Outlier, a top-tier private equity firm in the U.S. and one of the largest in the Southwest, which buys and grows businesses that are leaders in their niches. Its businesses are driven by visionary goals focused on operational leadership and steered by data, enabling it to measure progress, pivot when necessary and identify opportunities for growth.

“We’ve got a great brand, with a lot of tenured brokers and agents,” adds van den Bossche. “We think we’re a good solution for the marketplace. If, for any reason, the decision for people coming aboard takes a long time, that’s okay. We’re going to be around for a long time.

“We can make wise and purposeful decisions because we don’t have to meet some sort of specific exit strategy that has a timeline to it, like we would if we were beholden to debt or held to the expectations of being publicly traded,” he continues. “We’re not a financially engineered company, so we don’t have the pressures of a fund or being publicly traded and suddenly have to meet capital markets requirements or goals, or even a cadence that says we’ve got to continue growing at double digits, where you start to make hasty acquisitions, paying premium dollars. It allows us to make good decisions for the company, our brokerages and our agents for the long term.”

Van den Bossche, who oversees all aspects of the company and is responsible for guiding Realty Executives’ overall direction and strategic priorities, was drawn to the position for several reasons.

“I love building companies, and more specifically, I love building people,” he says. “I greatly enjoy watching them grow, and not just through successes, but through failures and challenges. My style is very open and authentic. I have a saying—we cry together, we laugh together—and I’ve done that with the team. So for me, it’s a great driver to watch people grow.

“The other part of it is selfish, which is that being around great leaders like David Tedesco and Vice Presidents Alysia Heun and David Celaya allows me to continue growing and developing. It also opens up opportunities that we can pursue because we have a great team; we can work on the business instead of being buried in it. That feeds into the things that drive me long term. I always tell people that we’re internally wired with purpose, and I’ve got purpose every single day, which is very important to me.”

Realty Executives proudly promotes a collaborative environment and entrepreneurial freedom with its franchisees, something van den Bossche sees as crucial to the company’s identity, and a selling point for recruiting brokerages.

“Some franchise systems have a very heavy-handed approach,” he explains. “Those with us will tell you that they feel a freedom, as though they’re an independently branded brokerage, but with the strength and collaboration of a national and international brand and systems.”

Vision and principles

Heun, who has been with Realty Executives for 10 years, and whose background in education and marketing have prepared her to interact with brokers and Executives throughout the network, lauds the company’s combination of long-term vision and close-knit principles.

“As we’ve moved forward through the years, we’re not the largest real estate network in the world, and we don’t want to be,” she says. “We are more exclusive and able to enjoy the benefits of a small company, not having the pressures of a public company. We can focus on what is best for our broker/owners and Executives, not shareholders. But it doesn’t mean we think small. We’re always thinking about the future, not just next week or next year, but what do the next 10 years look like? What do the next 50 years look like?”

Regarding tech stacks and other added values for its brokerages, Heun notes that it’s all available, but not in an over-the-top or pricey way. 

“We’re not going to say, ‘Agents and brokers, we have this new product or service and it’s the best thing you’ve ever seen, this is how to sell hundreds of homes easily,’” she adds. “We do have wonderful tech, marketing, training and support, but there’s no solution that replaces the expertise and entrepreneurial spirit of a professional REALTOR® or brokerage owner. Tools are meant to complement business and assist in healthy growth, not replace the humans behind it. We excel at being friendly to entrepreneurs and people who want access to resources, but still want to own and run their business, and get to dictate and control how they do it.”

Van den Bossche allows that technology is vital, but it’s not one-size-fits-all in the real estate industry, and that keeping costs down is important as well.

“We’ve been very purposeful and thoughtful with our technology,” he says. “We’re trying to create an environment to make sure that if our franchisees want to use it, they’ve got everything they need. Our economic model is right-sized, and they have the option to create enhancements onto what we provide. We’re very affordable. People who come onboard are surprised at not only how competitive we are, but what we provide. Our value prop is incredibly high.”

The corporate ability to provide different opportunities for agents and brokerages when they express interest in becoming part of the Realty Executives family is something van den Bossche is excited to share. 

“It’s a spectrum of opportunity, but also one that allows them to move up and down,” he says. “People can join our existing brokerages as agents or teams. If they want to progress to something that has more ownership, we have that pathway through our Powered Office model. They also have an ability to move up into being a full, independently owned business that is a franchisee. Going in the other direction, one of the things that we see, and this is industry-wide, is the 80/20 rule, wherein 80% of brokerages are small. It is difficult for them to grow.

“They don’t often realize the scale it takes to succeed in the current economic model in the industry, and it’s very difficult for them to dip into something that is really a profitable venture. They often find that being an agent or a team is much more profitable, but they find themselves in a contract where they’re on the hook for five- or 10-plus years. So, for us in our world, there are many options not only for coming into the system, but right-sizing, evolving and staying in the system.”

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